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Aircraft carrier


Restoration and refit of the Varyag is one of the most ambitions Chinese naval programmes

Country of origin China
Entered service 2012
Crew 2 000 men
Aircrew 500 men
Sea endurance 90 days (?)
Dimensions and displacement
Length 305 m
Beam 67 m
Draught 11 m
Hangar deck length 183 m
Displacement, standard 46 600 tons
Displacement, full load 59 400 tons
Propulsion and speed
Speed 29 knots
Boilers 8
Steam turbines 4 x 37.3 MW
Fixed wing J-15
Helicopters Z-8 and Ka-31
Artillery 3 x 30 mm CIWS
Missiles 3 or 4 x HHQ-10 (18-cell) short-range air defense missile systems
Other 2 x ASW rocket launchers with 12 rockets each


   The Varyag (viking) was a second ship of the Kuznetsov class. Initially this ship was named Riga. It was laid down in 1985 at the Nikolayev shipyard in Ukraine. This aircraft carrier was launched in 1988. After collapse of the Soviet Union construction ceased. Russia handed the hulk to Ukraine. Varyag was finished by 70%, however it had no propulsion, weapons or electronics. Ukrainian government had no funds and reasons to finish construction of this aircraft carrier.

   In 1998 Varyag was sold to Macau-based entertainment company for $20 million. The unfinished hull was to be towed to the Far East where it would be converted into an entertainment complex and casino. The contract with Ukraine prohibited the buyer from using Varyag for military purposes. Though this company appeared to be a front for the Chinese Navy.

   Varyag arrived to China in 2002. It was docked in Dalian at the Naval Shipyards and has been stationed there under tight secrecy. It has been handed to Chinese Navy for research and restoration. At that time ship was in poor condition. However significant refurbishment work has been done. The restoration was completed in 2006. Some sources report that China was negotiating with Russia supply of missing components. Eventually the ship was commissioned with the Chinese Navy in 2012 as the Liaoning. Currently this aircraft carrier is in active service.

   The Varyag is capable of operating a mixed air wing of up to 50 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. In 2006 it was reported that China ordered two Russian Su-33 carrier-based naval fighters for trials and evaluation. Delivery was expected in 2007-2008. There is also an agreed option for another 12-48 Su-33s fighters. Currently Chinese J-15 carrier-based fighters are used. This aircraft is based on the Russian Su-33 design. It is fitted with indigenous engines, weapons and radar. The carrierborne J-15 aircraft is produced in quantity. It also carries Chinese Z-8 helicopters and Russian Ka-27 anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue helicopters, Ka-31 airborne early warning helicopter. There are a total of 10 helicopter landing spots.

   The lack of catapults precludes launching aircraft with heavy strike loads, and the air superiority orientation of the air wing is apparent. Take-off is assisted by a bow ski-jump angled at 12 degrees in lieu of steam catapults. The flight deck is equipped with arrester wires. Two starboard lifts carry the aircraft from the hangar to the flight deck.

   After refit the Liaoning lost all of its offensive weapons. Now it carries only short-range defensive weapons. The ship is fitted with three or four HHQ-10 short-range air defense missile launchers. Each launcher has 18 cells. Also there are three 30 mm close-in weapon systems and two anti-submarine rocket launchers. Each ASW launcher has 12 tubes.

   The Liaoning is conventionally propelled with oil-fired boilers rather than nuclear reactors.

   The Liaoning was one of the most ambitious Chinese naval shipbuilding programmes. This aircraft carrier represents a significant shift in the balance of naval power in the area. However, to the poor condition of the Liaoning has relegated her to serving primarily as a training ship. It was clear that a different warship was needed to provide China with a plausible carrier aviation capability.

   Currently the second aircraft carrier is under construction in China. Its construction began in 2015. It is being built by the same shipyard, that completed the Liaoning. It has the same outlines as the Liaoning. However this aircraft carrier is built to improved Type 001A project and has some improvements over the Liaoning. The second China's aircraft carrier was launched in 2017. She already had a pennant number of 17 (under the US Navy's hull prefix system, this would make her "CV-17"), but no name has formally been announced. Some sources speculate that the second aircraft carrier can be named the Shandong. It is expected to be commissioned with the Chinese Navy in 2019 or 2020.

   Although the second carrier is clearly derived from the Liaoning, much of her architecture is entirely new. Her flight deck is wider and broader. The conning tower has some differences. Also there are three rather than two aircraft elevators.


Name Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
Liaoning (16) (ex-Varyag) 1985 1988 2012

active, in service

(17) 2015 2017 expected in 2019-2020

under construction







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